What is customer engagement?

The definition of customer engagement is broad: it includes every interaction that a customer initiates with the brand, or with other customers. An engaged customer is someone that cares about what your company says and actively uses your product. Engagement doesn’t just need to be between customers and employees or between customers and the product. An active community contributes to customer engagement too. Once engaged with your brand, it’s not just customer loyalty that goes up, but you also have a squad of eager brand advocates.

As customers have become digital-first, companies need to open up more online selling channels. Digital customer engagement has brought a major shift to how brands interact and keep their customer base engaged. Social media comments, online product or service reviews, and a ton of educational web content, all add to the way in which customers engage with a brand.

Customer engagement

Freshworks is identified as the only visionary in the 2021 Gartner Magic Quadrant for the CRM Customer Engagement Centre (CEC), with the Freshdesk Omnichannel solution called out for a strong vision in digital customer service.

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Benefits of engaging customers

Engaged customers are good for business. A fully engaged customer generates 24% more revenue than the average customer, research from Gallup shows. They do this in different ways.

 

1. They spend more money

Customers who frequently interact with your brand and enjoy a delightful customer experience will spend more money than those occasional shoppers. Engaging customers keeps your brand at the forefront of their minds, making you the first brand they turn to when they are in need.

2. They are easier to retain

It costs more money to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. This is even truer when retaining a customer who is fully engaged with your company’s marketing and services. Customer retention becomes easy because they understand what your brand stands for, and the value you offer, creating long-lasting customer relationships that make them less likely to churn.

Recommended reading: Discover how to build customer relationships that last a lifetime

3. They refer your company to their peers

Engaged customers will tell people about their interactions with you. Whether it’s sharing a blog post or just recommending your product to a friend or family member, engaged customers can help market your product. Prioritizing a superior customer experience creates a loyal customer base who trigger word-of-mouth marketing.

4. They are more open towards cross-sell and up-sell offers

Constellation Research reports that companies that invest in improving customer engagement see a 22% increase in cross-sell revenue and a 38% rise in up-sell revenue. Engaged customers relate more with brands and can easily visualize themselves utilizing more of the company’s product or service.

5. They help establish a positive brand perception

How customers perceive a brand and what it stands for significantly affects their purchase behavior, loyalty, and brand advocacy. Keeping customers engaged leaves a lasting and memorable impression of your brand that strengthens your position in the market.

However, customer engagement doesn’t just happen. It requires brands to make a dedicated effort towards building something that customers want to engage with. That might be valuable content, a supportive community, an excellent customer experience across channels, an inspiring movement, or a useful product.

Recommended reading: Learn about CX and the master the art of delivering a great customer experience

The good news is that digital customer engagement is an upward spiral. As you pull customers in, they become more closely connected to your brand and they become even more engaged. The more engaged they are, the more they purchase and find more value. It’s a never-ending, positively reinforcing cycle that can be enhanced with robust customer engagement platforms.

Developing a customer engagement strategy

There are no foolproof formulas to customer engagement as every customer base will require their own unique strategy. However, leading with a mix of empathy and genuine interest in the needs of your customers will put you on the right path.

 

How do you create a customer engagement plan?

 

Step 1: Find customer behavior and interests 

To understand what actions will drive desired results, consider what your customers already show interest in. Our research shows that 55% of customers want companies to know more about them. 

Sketching a customer journey map helps you tap into customer behavior, preferences, and interests.

You can begin by asking these questions -

Follow what customers want and need with a detailed customer journey mapping and come up with a customer engagement strategy that works for your specific customer base.

Related resource: The essential guide to mapping customer journeys

Step 2: Identify what engagement means to you

Engagement can take many forms, so it’s important to decide what behavior you want to drive. Do you want to increase customer activity within the product and keep users engaged in the product longer? Or do you want to build a customer community so that you can provide many-to-many customer support by putting your power users to work?

By outlining your desired outcomes, you can start identifying the success metrics that measure your progress towards improving customer engagement.

While the definition of customer engagement is vague and open to interpretation, the metrics that your company uses to measure engagement shouldn’t be. Define exactly what you want to achieve with a customer engagement strategy before you decide what activities to fund.

Step 3: Define specific actions

Using the metrics you’ve defined as your success benchmarks, identify the company actions that will drive these behaviors. Outcome metrics are lagging indicators - when customers are engaged, then these outcomes will happen. Developing a strategy involves coming up with leading indicators that will result in the desired outcomes.

For example, a leading indicator in the case of implementing a new communication channel on live chat for better customer engagement would be to track the number of chats opened, engaged, and closed. An outcome metric here would be looking at the resolution or conversion rates post the conversations.

Remember, customer engagement is a two-way street - if you start sending content to your customers that they aren’t reading or responding to, that’s not customer engagement. That’s just a one-sided reach-out. For true customer engagement, customers have to choose to interact with you.

Step 4: Roll out strategy

Customer engagement is the responsibility of the entire company - not just one department. In order to connect with customers, every department needs to be invested in breaking down the walls between customer and company.

Getting every team involved with customer engagement requires aligning every teams’ priorities. Usually, this means setting KPIs for each department that contributes to the company goals of customer engagement. For example, the marketing team could be measured on interactions between customers and marketing material like ebook downloads. Product teams might be measured on the interest in a new beta program. And every department will play a role in improving the Net Promoter Score.

Step 5: Measure success and evolve

Once you’ve started rolling out your strategy, you’ll need to measure your success. Assuming every department is fulfilling their part of the plan, how effective are your activities in engaging customers?

If you start to see customer engagement increase, you’re doing something right. Invest more heavily in the strategies that are working, and experiment with new ones.

If your activities are not improving customer engagement and customers are staying quiet and uninterested, don’t despair. Building a highly engaged customer base takes time, patience and consistency. If the strategy you’ve put into place isn’t delivering results, be okay with trying new ideas and get creative. Your customers want to like the businesses they give money to - they will connect with you one day.

6 simple ways to increase customer engagement

Engaging customers doesn’t always need to cost a lot of money or take a lot of time. Here are six ways you can encourage customer engagement and start building customer loyalty.

1. Personalize customer interactions

Customers stay engaged with brands that strive to give them more personal attention and care. In fact, our study reveals that 77% of customers are willing to exchange their personal data — contact details, previous browsing, brand relationship history — for a superior experience. Personalized product or content recommendations, tailored discounts and offers, targeted marketing campaigns, customized email and in-app push notifications are some ways to show that brands treat customers as individuals with unique preferences.

2. Create useful content

Become an expert in the things your customers care about and help them learn about it. If you sell HR management software, provide job description templates and advice on how to recruit the best employees. If you provide email marketing software, create content that helps customers create beautiful emails (like templates or best practice guides). Helpful content will always find an audience and your customers will be keen to share it - they will boost their own visibility by sharing great content too!

3. Be yourself on social media

Customers love seeing a brand’s personality on social channels like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. Share as much of your unique brand as you can, including a behind-the-scenes look at your office culture. Customers will be able to identify with you and feel closer to your brand.

4. Ask questions and listen to the answers

One of the best ways to engage customers is to create a space for them to share their opinion. Truly customer-centric brands take the time and effort to listen to their customers' voices through surveys, social media listening, or product/service feedback. This is especially effective when it’s a space where employees are available to listen and respond. Whether that’s asking their thoughts about a new feature in beta, how they felt about a recent change, or even casual questions about their interests, asking questions invites interaction.

5. Appreciate engaged customers

Give back to customers who take the time to engage and reward positive behavior. Say thank you when customers get in touch and provide small bonuses for customers that you see regularly interacting with your brand. That might be in the form of a handwritten note or a small discount for their next purchase. Simply expressing gratitude for your customers’ time is a powerful way to encourage further interaction.

6. Think omnichannel engagement

There are so many different places and channels that you can facilitate digital customer engagement through. You might depend on email marketing if you work online, but you can also deliver a great customer experience and build engagement through your app, over social media, in person at events, and basically any other format you can think of. Surround your customers with positive opportunities to get in touch and they’ll have no other option but to chat with you!

Start communicating and engaging with your customers on multiple channels seamlessly with omnichannel help desk software.

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Measuring customer engagement

Some strategies for engaging customers are more impactful than others. How do you know what’s working, what’s worth doing and what customer engagement strategies are falling flat? You need to measure the return on investment by determining if your actions are driving the customer behavior you want to impact. 

Well-defined metrics that are mapped to desired outcomes help in measuring your customer engagement efforts. While there are different metrics available to gauge engagement, you can choose the success metrics that closely align with the customer engagement initiatives that you’ve taken up. 

Metrics to measure customer engagement

Active community members

Measure how many customers visit, post and interact in your community forum weekly or monthly. As customers become more engaged in the community and find more value, you’ll see this number increase.

Social media engagement

Measure how many mentions your brand receives on Twitter, replies, and comments each post receives. If you’re creating content that resonates with your audience, you’ll see more customers interacting with it and your customer engagement will increase.

Customer referrals

Engaged customers will tell your family and friends about you and spread the word. This should mean you’re seeing more leads and purchases from referrals. Using referral codes is one way to track whether referrals are increasing, but you can also ask new customers how they heard about you.

Email opens and click-throughs

If you send out an email, whether it’s a newsletter, a promotion or a company update, only customers who are engaged will actually open it and click through any calls to action (CTAs). By measuring the success of your email marketing strategy, you can understand whether customers are interacting with your company, or if they are just sending the emails to the trash.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) and customer satisfaction scores

While NPS is traditionally a measurement of loyalty, customer engagement and customer loyalty go hand in hand. Running NPS surveys can help identify how customer engagement impacts overall customer loyalty. Measuring customer satisfaction using CSAT scores also indicates if a customer is happy with the brand experience.

Retention and churn

Ultimately, increasing customer engagement should keep your customers around for longer. This is often called the “stickiness” of your products. Customers will open their wallet for a company they are engaged with. Is your customer engagement strategy keeping customers around and spending more money?

How do you track customer engagement?

You now have the metrics you need to go after. But without a comprehensive tracking system, your customer engagement strategy could fall flat. Here’s where a customer engagement platform comes in handy. There are several types of customer engagement platforms that you can pick from depending on the touchpoints and channels you want your business to prioritize.

Examples of customer engagement platforms

Online community forums

Online forums are a great way to build a self-sustainable community of like-minded customers. As a customer engagement platform, the online community is a treasure trove of user-generated content, product-focused discussions, peer-to-peer help, and new ideas to make the experience wholesome for customers.

Related resource: The importance of building a strong customer community

Instant messaging and chat

More and more people are turning to chat and instant messaging channels like WhatsApp and Apple Business Chat to engage with businesses. With the advent of chatbots, users are finding it much easier as a customer engagement platform that provides instant responses to their basic queries.

Customer engagement software (agent-side)

Customer engagement software has robust functionalities to track engagement across every channel. From detecting brand mentions to keyword-based tracking, tracking engagement associated with your brand is now infinitely more effective with a help desk that doubles up as a customer engagement software.

 

Freshdesk helps you engage better with customers by offering them a delightful customer service experience.

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The role of the customer service team in customer engagement

We often work to reduce the amount of contact we have with customers. We try to resolve tickets in just one touch (called first contact resolution). We try to reduce the number of times that customers need to talk to a human to get help, instead of leaning on intuitive products and self-service. It can seem like the goals of customer service teams are often at odds with the desire to become more engaged with our customers.  

But that is not the case at all. Instead of trying to drive any engagement at all, we need to focus on driving positive customer interactions with a help desk - the kinds that customers want to have and that add value to their experience.

 

How good customer service can be utilized as an effective customer engagement strategy

 

1. Offer proactive support

One way of developing positive interactions with customers is by using proactive support to help customers before they run into an issue. This might be through onboarding, best practice guides, or early warnings. Because customers haven’t actually had a problem yet, these interactions are a positive experience. You get to talk with customers and they feel taken care of. This interaction boosts the customer’s perception of your support team from someone that they have to talk to, to someone that they get to talk to.

To find where you might be able to start offering proactive support, look at the customer support inquiries coming into your helpdesk. For each type, think “is there anything we could have done to prevent this customer from having this issue?” If the answer is yes - you have a new proactive support idea!

Related resource: What is proactive customer service and how to implement it in your organization

2. Surprise and delight customers

In customer service, we want to try and balance out every negative interaction (an angry phone call, a bug report, or a frustrated email) with a positive one. But finding opportunities to create a genuine positive moment can be difficult when we’re focused on resolving issues. This is where a surprise and delight strategy can come into play.

Surprises are more effective than expected bonuses or gifts. For example, if a customer submitted a customer service ticket and after it was resolved they received a note from the customer service agent thanking them, they’d be happy. But if a customer receives a handwritten note for no reason at all, simply thanking them for being a customer - that could mean a lot more. 

3. Collect customer feedback

Customer feedback - the opinions your customers choose to share with you - is actually a sign of high customer engagement. Only customers who truly care about your company (and its value to them) will take the time to submit customer feedback. The disengaged customers are the ones that stay silent - even when they aren’t happy.

To encourage more customers to submit feedback, make it clear how important it is to your team to hear what your customers think. Offer a number of places and channels for your customers to contact you with feedback, including in-app feedback, proactive chat on your website, or just an easily accessible email.

But customer feedback only really becomes a positive customer interaction when customers realize they're being heard. That means responding to customers, thanking them for taking the time to write in, and then acting on their suggestions or requests. If you do decide to use their feedback to make changes in the product, be sure to close the loop and let customers know when their ideas have been incorporated, or if their thoughts have led to changes. That kind of interaction will lead to a loyal customer for life.

Related resource: A detailed guide to gathering customer feedback

4. Build an interactive community

Sometimes customers want to talk about your company with people who aren’t affiliated with your brand. Facilitating a customer community where power users can assist newer customers with best practices and share insights from your industry is a great way to power customer engagement.

You can support an existing customer community by sponsoring meetups or hopping into general forums on Reddit or into Twitter conversations. These customers are already engaged enough with your community that they’ve started their own forum to discuss.

If a place doesn’t already exist for customers to discuss best practices, you can create a customer community forum and recruit users to start the discussion. Starting a community from scratch takes time, consistency, and dedication. When you start, it might seem very quiet and you might even need to encourage customers to start joining in the conversations with giveaways and rewards. But if you stick with it, you’ll see a core group of engaged customers take charge and make the community their own.

5. Providing great customer service

Perhaps most importantly, the customer service team’s role in customer engagement is to keep the door open for customers to connect. If a customer receives terrible service, they aren’t likely to want to engage further with a brand. However, if the experience when contacting support is always pleasant, it’s much more likely that the customer will want to continue working with your brand.

Related resource: How to deliver great customer service in 8 steps

Build better relationships with a customer engagement software

Digital customer engagement has given businesses more opportunities to connect with their customers. However, with multiple channels to meet, support, and engage with customers, it might get hard to manage and build customer relationships. 

Customer data and past interactions turn into silos, without giving a unified view of customer requirements. Support agents or customer success managers are then faced with the time-consuming task of piecing together customer information. Turning to omnichannel support software such as Freshdesk for a holistic view of customers saves time and effort for your customer support or customer success team.

 

Functionalities to look for in a customer engagement software

Support customers across multiple channels

In an age where 2.6 billion people use social media to actively communicate, offering customer support where your customers need it is of paramount importance. Email and phone stay as customers’ favorite communication channels with brands. However, research indicates the growing popularity of other channels, with 25% of customers pointing to chatbots and 25% of customers picking messaging channels like WhatsApp as their preferred channels.

Choose a multi-channel support software like Freshdesk to provide consistent support on phone, email, social media, messaging apps, chat, and self-service without leaving your helpdesk.

Support customers on multiple channels

Built-in centralized knowledge base repository

Create a knowledge base of FAQs and useful tips so that customers can find the answer to their questions without having to contact your support team. This gives your customers the power to solve their own issues and also reduces the number of tickets your helpdesk receives.

Knowledge base repository

Deliver contextual interactions

Customers feel valued and cared for when they realize that companies track and remember their conversation or relationship history with the brand. Having access to their order details or previous customer service interactions or even recording details of support interaction on different channels meets customer expectations of being heard.

Drive contextual support by integrating customer data across your CRM, help desk, e-commerce website, and other software tools.

Freshdesk Shopify integration

 

Ability to host community forums

Create a platform where customers can interact with you, each other and help each other out with tips and insights. How customers feel about you can be a decisive factor when a prospective buyer is considering your brand.

 

Community forums

Extend instant customer support

Email can only go so far in managing customer support for a business. When customers are looking for answers to critical issues, an email just won’t cut it. With the Freshdesk Messaging integration, you can provide customers who need instant answers with concise replies in real-time on different messaging platforms.

Instant customer support

Resources to boost your customer engagement strategy